Ten years later

– if you are newer to me and aren’t familiar with this part of my journey, it might help to read last year’s post (click on this, it doesn’t look clickable but it is) before reading this.

Today has been 10 years.

I find myself, for the first time, not that interested in writing.

Every year for ten years on this day I have made a post.

The first year it was just, “Please pray for my brother.”

I have been wanting to go back, into old Facebook accounts, to compile them all in one place. Each year, to notice what shifted, how I wrote about it differently.

But I don’t want to read them, today.

It feels like my body has been processing enough grief… without that.

There is a big layer around not being able to go home this year. I have not seen my family in almost two years. Last Christmas it felt like the only one, just this time I would not go home, not during a pandemic without being sure of my re-entry back into Canada.

And this year, unfathomably, it is still the same. Everything having been slowed, my residency still not all the way through due to Covid and other worldwide events. My choice not to get the vaccine.

It’s tempting, sometimes, to feel like if I would just get it then I could at least try to pretend that everything was normal. I could get on planes and go to restaurants and participate in normal society again.

But I know that’s not how it works. Nothing would feel normal either way.

And I would never go against my body.

So I am left, back with the reality of my choice.

There will be no going back to Pennsylvania.

I will not see my brother for the second year in a row.

I remember going back, in December 2019, and thinking, I will not let it go this long again. It had been 8 months since I had seen them, and I thought, I will come back a few times a year.

And then.

And. Then.

At the same time it has given me a way to feel myself in a way I’ve never had before. My own self, building my own life in a new country. Buying a truck and a home. Becoming engaged. Feeling, who am I if I cannot even go back into my home country. Who am I in this place?

And I like her.

This version. The most I have touched my true self.

She is maybe 90 lbs heavier and has a business and makes car payments and makes Christmas crafts and composts her poop and has gone through so much transition in such a short period of time with so much grace.

She spends most of her time looking at eagles in the trees and the flooding creek and all of the plants right outside her door.

She walks in the woods near the ocean every day.

I think I really thought a decade later I would not feel as much. Like it would fade. Last year I felt so grounded. Really through it.

And I still feel that same sense of groundedness but this year I feel like the work I have done has now made room for the deeper pieces to arise, to be seen, to release.

In August in an inner child session with a friend I touched for the first time my 19-year-old self.

The girl who it happened to. Who lost her brother and dropped her life to go be in the hospital.

And for the first time I could really feel her.

I think up until now I have assumed how she felt in my mind. I have created a story about what happened and put it on her.

This is how she was, this is how she felt.

But when I felt her in the session I suddenly had the unthinkable thought:

“Maybe I didn’t want to go home.”

And I sobbed for hours because I had never even considered that there was another option. Of course there wasn’t, Damon was in an accident, we all had to make him get better.

But when I really felt her I could feel where she was when it happened. 19 years old. Her first semester of college. The first place she ever felt like she belonged. She had more friends than she had ever had, she felt like she fit, she was taking classes and had a crush (unrequited) on a boy, she thought maybe she would become a magazine editor, and there was this little place on the campus called the Homestead where she thought she might like to live when she was a senior, where they lived closer to the land.

I have looked at her with disdain sometimes. Being like “back then I wasn’t really happy, I didn’t know what happiness was. I drank every night. I was so focused on my image.”

And I think I’ve done that because I didn’t really want to see her fully.

It’s true, I was 19, I was focused on those things.

But this year I allowed myself to imagine for the first time – what if I hadn’t left school?

Worse – what if I hadn’t wanted to?

It’s the kind of thought experiment that doesn’t really matter.

But it also does.

What if I hadn’t left school and had gone back for the start of the second semester in January. What if I had gone home for just those few weeks when it first happened. And what if then I had to return to school.

My first thought to myself when I felt this was, “Damon would have died without me there.”

“I could not have left. It was not an option.”

And yet…

I wonder, if I had been there to go back and hold my 19-year-old self, to say, the grief is important and you should go back to school and go to therapy…

I don’t know. It’s hard to play out because I know I never would have done it.

And maybe it’s true. I think we all feel that way, that Damon would have died without us there. That might be true, too. I think it is.

But there is still this little piece I feel when I truly feel my 19-year-old self where she had just lost not only her brother and her family as it was but also all her friends and her school and the place where she first finally felt out on her own and happy.

And when she went home she acted like she was so strong taking care of everybody else but really she developed an eating disorder and spent a lot of time in the hospital and feeling so alone and was so unstable. And no one could really see her, or even wanted to anymore.

How much was my rescuer – so prominent at that age – taking over, immediately taking care of everyone else to feel important, thinking she knew everything.

My rescuer, as I have learned, is not actually me.

I never really felt myself as separate.

A few days ago another friend led me through a somatic movement practice. As I felt the sadness in my body that has been coming up the past couple weeks.

And I was swaying and started to sway faster and with my body totally in charge I thought “oh no, I have to scream.”

And then the scream came out, and as I was screaming over and over I got flashes, like individual photographs:

— My dorm room, the lighting, the moment when I first found out Damon was in an accident, screaming crying trying to find all my things will my friends drive me home

— New Year’s Eve a month later, sitting alone at midnight in my childhood bed, watching a foreign movie with subtitles and a glass of red wine, none of my friends had invited me anywhere or wished me happy new years 

— On a black sand beach in Iceland 7 years later, screaming grief into the ocean in the rain while women held me

And I cried.

And at the end of the practice I just felt cleaned out. No stories attached. Just like a part had emptied.

I think I forget what I used to be like.

How little I was really able to hold at that age.

Of course it is still coming out. It probably will forever.

I saw a video of me the other day from 2017 and I was shocked. I was so locked up. So out of my body. You can feel the tightness watching me, how tightly I am gripping holding myself pushing down my emotions.

Watching it I was reminded of my grandmother – those were her expressions, I thought. Not feeling. Not really there.

SHE is buried down so deep inside it is almost totally inaccessible.

And I was in awe, really, at how that can become this.

I feel my woman more than I have ever felt her.

I feel myself more than I have ever felt her.

It’s not really an overcoming, I don’t really identify with overcoming. I don’t feel like I have “overcome” anything in particular.

But when I look at my life right now I can feel all versions of me, how happy they are with this. Living amongst the twirling branches and the deer and the moon streaming through our skylights at night.

An independent schedule. A fiancé who tells me how beautiful and cute I am and how I am his biggest gift and how happy I make him every single day, multiple times a day.

Being flooded with an amount of love I did not know was possible.

And it has taken ten years but I am finally at the place where I am ready to really see my 19-year-old self. To say – wow. That was so hard. How much you gave up, how much you lost.

And somehow… somehow… you turned that into this.


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